The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign has been a city landmark since its debut on the south end of the Strip in 1959.
There are similar signs downtown and over on Boulder Highway, but the one at the median of 5100 South Las Vegas Boulevard has become a must-see stop for visitors, especially after the parking area was established back in 2008.
It is just one way in and out driving from Mandalay Bay south and the parking area was expanded from 10 to 30 in April 2012, after the Clark County Commission authorized the expenditure of $500,000 to add 20 more spaces to accommodate visitor traffic
To hang out and pose at this 25-foot tall sign is as much a part of the Vegas experience as waiting around the block for a peek into pawn shops downtown.
The sign was approved four years ago on the National Register of Historic Places. And last week the procession was steady. Mostly foreign tourists came for a photo shot in front of this iconic sign that has come to represent the official Las Vegas welcome worldwide.
So we’ve established that visitors come. Now for the why.
There was a husband and wife from Mexico who came here for the entertainment. A family was here for a conference on computers. A pair of Brits, Simon and Glenn, came for 11 days to see shows.
And yes, the “Hangover” movie was represented.
“We’re a group of girls who came for a bachelorette party,” said Peggy, who spoke for a group of five visiting from the Black Forest area in Germany. “We do gamble some and will probably spend some money playing at Bellagio if we can get an open blackjack table.”
Naomi came with her friend from the Netherlands and The Hague, also to experience Vegas fun.
“We came for the weather and the shops,” she said. “You can walk and gamble. Everything is so nice. We’re spending 10 days at the Flamingo. We hear a lot about Las Vegas on the Internet. Amsterdam is little and cold. I love America.”
Mike French, a limo chauffeur who works with MGM, brought a group of people out to the sign for photos.
“My clients wanted to get a picture taken before they left,” French said. ”People have been coming to the Welcome Las Vegas sign for over 50 years.”
French felt the parking area should be even larger to accommodate more visitors.
“It does get real busy,” he said. “But with this beautiful week of weather, this is a great place to be.”
Clearly Vegas tourism still is a sign of good things to come.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].